Hot Cash From the King of Spice

Key Ingredients

I’m a cook, not a chef. I did not attend culinary school, nor do I own or operate a professional kitchen. It’s merely semantics, at this point. Just as one is not a doctor without an M.D. or Ph.D, my path to prominence in the food landscape was not charted on a traditional map.

Going back to the moment I could see over the countertop of my grandpa’s kitchen island, I have been cooking. Someone who cooks also tastes everything. Thusly, I was introduced to “adult” things like coffee, wine, and whiskey at a younger age than most. My family put things in front of me every day. I remember pressure cooking a whole chicken when I was nine years old. Grandpa was floored at my level of interest in the techniques and science behind what we were putting together to feed the family.

Fantasy football, including DFS, shares a similar vein with cooking. Maybe that’s the allure. If technique is the method used in experimentation and application of science, it can also be assumed that there is room for nuance (art).

A successful DFS Cash build is that beautiful dance between art and science. Not only are the key ingredients there, but each one of them plays their own role in the symphonic harmony. How much salary you spend on each spot is the difference between a dollop, dash, or pinch. You might sneak a little something special in the pot and gaze upon your patrons with anticipation, hoping that they recognize it.

This week’s Hot Cash From the King of Spice pays homage to everyone in my family who molded me into what I am and will become. Going forward, my favorite cash players of the week will be marked with (***) to signify them as Key Ingredients, while one player each week will be italicized to signify them as a Secret Ingredient to a winning cash build. Bon appetite!

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 13: Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to throw the ball in the first quarter against the New York Jets at CenturyLink Field on December 13, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Week 2 DFS Cash Plays

I have a slightly different view from the consensus on how to build winning cash lineups. Instead of focusing on players with a “high floor,” I instead focus on their expected workload. These players often have that safe floor as a result of the VOLUME of opportunities, but they also have a higher likelihood of returning the 3x+ value that most cash games require to end the day above the pay line. A smart cash player has to always consider ceiling as a part of the equation, just maybe weighted lighter than if building for a GPP. I ask myself the same question every time: Does this player’s expected volume of opportunities (EVO) have high odds of accomplishing 3 points per salary dollar, divided by 1,000 (x=3[y/1000]).

Quarterbacks

KYLER MURRAY: vs MINNESOTA ($8,200)

There isn’t a more electric player in the game today than K1, or as Christian Kirk has dubbed him, “Baby Yoda.” The Vikings looked every bit as mortal on defense as I expected last week against the Bengals. With the other high-priced quarterbacks in tougher matchups this week, I’ll take the red hot Murray and ride this amazing wave of points.

RUSSELL WILSON: vs TENNESSEE ($7,500)

Russ didn’t need to cook too much against Indy, but he surely did anyway against what was supposed to be a tough defense. Now facing one of Week 1’s worst defensive units, I just can’t get around fading him in any type of contest.

JUSTIN HERBERT: vs DALLAS ($6,700) ***

Talk about contrast! Herbert was pretty damn sharp last week in Washington. Now, he goes from navigating the pocket against a fearsome and hellacious pass rush to one that just lost its heartbeat. Dallas netted zero sacks last week and were picked apart like a rotisserie chicken at a potluck, even with DeMarcus Lawrence leading the charge. The Chargers figure to score at will this week, with Herbert as the benefactor.

JALEN HURTS: vs SAN FRANCISCO ($6,500)

You would think after his stellar performance against Atlanta on Sunday, that Hurts’ salary would have skyrocketed farther. Since it didn’t, and he goes against a 49ers defense that was gutted by Jared Goff down the stretch last week, I can’t help but play him in cash.

JOE BURROW: @ CHICAGO ($5,800)

The Bengals were surprisingly efficient against Minnesota, running the ball with great efficiency and limiting Burrow to 27 passing attempts. The Bears pass defense was eviscerated by Matthew Stafford last week, but still poses a challenge to the Bengals’ running game. Look for Burrow to easily crack 30 passing attempts and surpass 20 fantasy points in the process.

Running Backs

CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY: vs NEW ORLEANS ($9,900)

The best player in fantasy football faces an incredible challenge in Week 1. The Saints are fresh off their dismantling of the Packers and kept Aaron Jones from producing anything meaningful for fantasy. Am I afraid the same will happen to CMC on Sunday? Absolutely not. The sheer volume of quality touches he receives every game is enough to be secure in plugging him into a cash lineup no matter what.

NICK CHUBB: vs HOUSTON ($7,800)***

This is an absolute dream matchup. Chubb diced up the Chiefs last week and now faces a Houston defense that wasn’t challenged at all in the running game last week. I’ll be playing Chubb in any format this week and he’s a key ingredient in a winning cash build.

AUSTIN EKELER: vs DALLAS ($7,300)

Ekeler did not receive a single passing target last week, eerily similar to Week 1 of last season. Washington was keying on the flats and put a spy on Ekeler the whole game. Even then, he was open. I fully expect Herbert to find his outlet valve much more this week against a poor Cowboys defense. Ekeler also figures to have success on the ground, with the news that Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is out with a broken foot.

NAJEE HARRIS: vs LAS VEGAS ($6,300)

Are you surprised to see this name on the list? You shouldn’t be. The rookie received every single running back touch last week against Buffalo. The Raiders pose much less beef up front than the Bills, who crowded the line of scrimmage and dared Big Ben to beat them over the top. Harris also looked better than his production, which gives me confidence that he will outperform his salary this week.

DAVID MONTGOMERY: vs CINCINNATI ($6,100)***

There were many puzzling salaries at the running back position for this week on DraftKings. Namely, Monty and Zeke. Since Monty has a juicier matchup and isn’t in as much of a timeshare, I’ll ride with the guy who gashed the Rams fearsome front and won me some money on the Showdown Slate in Week 1.

CHASE EDMONDS: vs MINNESOTA ($4,900)

High-quality touches give the edge to Edmonds over Conner for me on DK this week. Though you can probably start either one against the Vikings, Edmonds is the preferred option in PPR. Their salaries are both pretty nice this week.

NYHEIM HINES: vs LA RAMS ($4,700)

I have been stumping for Hines’ value all offseason. The fanfare around his RB15 finish in 2020 was long gone, back to him available as RB53 in drafts this summer. Of course, the entire Indy offense runs through its two running backs. This was reinstated in Week 1. Jonathan Taylor garnered 23 touches and Hines had 15, putting up 14.2 PPR points (right on his 2020 average). The Rams were not as stellar against the Bears running game as many hoped last week. Hines should pile up high-quality touches at a bargain again.

JAVONTE WILLIAMS*: @ JACKSONVILLE ($4,400)

I bet you didn’t predict who my secret ingredient player would be. The rookie out of North Carolina was simply okay last week against the Giants. He did out-touch breakout performer Melvin Gordon, whose 70-yard touchdown made him relevant. I predict more Javonte this week against a woeful Jags defense that (triple-checks notes) allowed three Texans running backs to be fantasy-relevant in Week 1. This one is ripe for the picking. My rookie RB2 is going to shine on Sunday.

Wide Receivers

DEANDRE HOPKINS: vs MINNESOTA ($8,000)

My pair of Cardinals was a big hit in cash games last week. The Vikings won’t offer much resistance on defense, especially when they struggled against the Bengals last week. I’m rolling a lot of my same plays back into this week, including the immense volume afforded to Nuk in the Air Raid.

JUSTIN JEFFERSON: @ ARIZONA ($7,400)

No, there’s not much reason to play both Vikings receivers in the same roster build, but I do see them as equally good for cash games. Look at it this way, in a larger field 50/50 or Head-to-Head, I might lean Jefferson with a tad more upside.

ADAM THIELEN: @ ARIZONA ($7,100)

Thielen is coming off a monstrous 30-point outing against the Bengals. Arizona generated a great deal of pressure on the Titans, but the Vikings line is arguably a better unit. If Minnesota can expose the Cardinals’ lack of talent at cornerback, Jefferson and Thielen will both feast again this week.

KEENAN ALLEN: vs DALLAS ($7,100)***

Keenan Allen is going to rip this defense apart. The Dallas pass rush is non-existent, especially with Tank Lawrence out of action. Herbert’s surgical precision and talent at the skill positions make this a great game to stack, even in a cash game. Allen and Chris Godwin are similar players, lest we forget last Thursday night.

CHRIS GODWIN: vs ATLANTA ($6,600)

The world champs have another cupcake defense to toy with to start their 2021 title defense. Devonta Smith operated in the slot most of Week 1 and made quick work of the Falcons secondary in his first professional outing. Godwin is a more polished and savvy version of the Slim Reaper and will be receiving his passes from the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Any questions?

DIONTAE JOHNSON: vs LAS VEGAS ($6,400)

I love that Diontae didn’t have the best game against Buffalo. His salary stayed well below what it will be following this game. The Raiders benefitted from a Ravens offense in disarray, whose X receiver was Sammy Freakin’ Watkins. Johnson also won’t have Tre White covering him. With 9-10 targets incoming, this is an ultra-strong play.

MIKE WILLIAMS: vs DALLAS ($6,100)

Did we mention that the Cowboys defense is falling apart? Although I will be deploying Williams in more GPP contests, it can’t be ignored that he excelled as the X receiver last week with 12 targets and 22.2 DK points. This gives me more confidence in his steady volume to combine with his flair for the spectacular, slate-breaking plays down the field.

COOPER KUPP: @ INDIANAPOLIS ($6,000)

This has to be a mistake, right? We just witnessed the Colts get roasted down the field by a great deep ball passer in Russell Wilson. Now, you’re telling me Matthew Stafford is rolling into Lucas Oil Stadium after dropping bombs on the Bears. I’m licking my chops here in all formats. Kupp is an easy cash value at this ridiculous salary.

TEE HIGGINS: @ CHICAGO ($5,400)

I just love playing Tee Higgins in cash games. He’s not Tyler Boyd, who many tab as the “safe floor” guy that the traditional cash player pines for. He’s my type of cash player. Only needing 16 DK points to smash value against an overmatched Bears secondary is a great feeling to have.

LAVISKA SHENAULT JR: vs DENVER ($4,900)

Let me get this straight. Shenault puts up 12.9 DK points on nine targets without scoring a touchdown and his salary went down $100? I’m looking around to make sure I’m not on a hidden camera prank show. Viska offers all the volume in this putrid and idiotic Urban Meyer scheme. He’s still their best bet to reach the end zone, too.

Tight Ends

DARREN WALLER: @ PITTSBURGH ($7,600)

Travis Kelce is off the main slate. This is not a drill. For all the amazing accolades, Kelce and Waller are virtually indistinguishable on the stat sheet. If Kelce is ever priced below $8k, you hammer it. If Waller is ever priced below $8k,…

GEORGE KITTLE: @ PHILADELPHIA ($6,400)

There was nothing obvious to suggest that the Eagles’ dismantling of the Falcons in Week 1 was a fluke. The Falcons have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. The scheme and game plan deployed by Arthur Smith was terrible. The play calls were terrible. The Falcons ignored every advantage they had against the Philly defense. For how annoying Kyle Shanahan is, he’s not taking Kittle out of the game plan (or is he?). I’ll be overweight on Kittle in all DFS formats where I can fit him in.

KYLE PITTS: @ TAMPA BAY ($5,200)

This is more in line with the salary Pitts should have had last week. This is a fair price for a player with GPP upside against a tough defense. The weakness of Tampa is in the slot, where Pitts was aligned on the vast majority of his snaps. He was a letdown in Week 1, production-wise. He is still pacing for 136 targets, so the production will follow. That is, if Matt Ryan can remember how to play quarterback.

ROB GRONKOWSKI: vs ATLANTA ($4,700)

The GPP landscape might be ripe for rostering two tight ends this week. Much like Week 2 of 2020, the matchups and pricing indicate this as optimal for tournament play. For cash, I look for chemistry and a steady role in the offensive system. That was glaring for Gronk and the Bucs in the kickoff game versus Dallas. The Falcons are similar, in that they lack quality personnel to defend the middle of the field. Play him at this salary with peak confidence.

NOAH FANT: @ JACKSONVILLE ($4,200)***

Jerry Jeudy’s injury hit me like a ton of bricks. I have him on over half of my fantasy teams. If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that Fant is penciled in as the direct recipient of the short and intermediate passing attention from historically-nearsighted Teddy Bridgewater. This is an ideal matchup with plenty of GPP upside, as well. Holy smokes! Am I becoming a Broncos fan?

JARED COOK: vs DALLAS ($3,900)

Yes, it hurts to pick on my Cowboys so much this week. I can’t help it. They are playing shorthanded on defense for the foreseeable future and visit the LA Chargers. The same Chargers that I predicted to win the Super Bowl this season. Cook was very clearly Justin Herbert’s favorite tight end target against Washington and has a history of sticking a dagger through Dallas’ heart.

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